FA Challenges NYAG James To Act To Enforce The NYS Law Providing Free Admission To The Met Museum For New Yorkers

Below find the text of an email FA Founder, Pat Nicholson, sent to NYAG Letitia James on April 4, 2019.

,Attorney General James,   Thank you for your attention on behalf of all New Yorkers ahead of reading the body of my email below.   I shall appreciate your office reaching out to me [contact information below] or Mr. Hiller [212.319.4000] with questions and comments.   FA’s next step is to announce by press release the opportunity for New Yorkers to sign an on-line petition.  It would be valuable to include in the preface to the petition that your office has responded [or not] to taking the steps necessary to enforce New Yorkers’ legislated rights.   [I was surprised to see that 27,598 “signed” an earlier petition to have “The Met … Remain Pay As You Wish”.  (below the image, click on the “Read Petition” downward arrow.] 

Body of email:  I saw in the March 29, 2019, Hyperallergie article entitled, “New York State Launches Opioid Lawsuit, Naming Sacklers and Purdue Pharma”, that you called the Sacklers’ “art philanthropy” a “tactic [to] whitewash their decades-long success in profiting at New Yorkers’ expense”. 

There are other “tactics” also at play – and these concern many of the 13 public-private partnerships, City-owned, park-situated museums and organizations — that for too long have reaped the free-rent benefit of their “partnership” while in effect disregarding their obligation to provide New Yorkers free-access.  As you tackle “tactic[s]”, enforcing the contracts and laws regarding the latter could be one of your administration’s most defining actions.      

For instance, an unidentified Metropolitan Museum of Art [Met Museum] spokesperson [the article advised that your lawsuit notes it as one of the Sackler’s primary philanthropies], was quoted as saying that the Met Museum will “continue our review of [its] gift acceptance policies … and will be transparent in our process and conclusions.”  As the founder of Free Admission For All New Yorkers [FA], I would prefer the spokesman to affirm the Met Museum being “compliant” with NYS law rather than being “transparent [and misleading] in [its] process and conclusion”.  [see email exchange between Weine and Nicholson described below]

Brava for your crucial overseeing in the former instance [Sacklers] and in this regard, FA’s trust that will you will insist that as the Met Museum addresses its “tactic” of silent non-compliance [seemingly silently supported by City and State leaders] with Ch. 476 of the Laws of 1893, too long unenforced to the educational, intellectual, cultural and social detriment to the electorate you represent – New Yorkers.  

As well as to say, the economic disconnect between $750,000,000 to the Met Museum [and to-be-determined sums to the 12 others, if any] annually in free rent versus a mandated admission cost to New Yorkers.   [The Met Museum’s current policy requires that New Yorkers pay an admission in an amount that “is up to you”.  Not the free admission five days, with one being Sunday afternoons, and two evenings in a week, as Ch. 476 of the Laws of 1893 requires.]   

For your information, please consider:

  • “The FA Story” on its website. 
  • “Expanded Efforts” on its website detailing the legislative provisions uncovered regarding the 13, noting that the Met Museum and the American Museum of Natural History, particularly, are required to be open free to New Yorkers five days, with one being Sunday afternoon, and two evenings a week.  [see FA’s Expanded Efforts section]
  • A November 10, 2016, letter from counsel, Michael Hiller, of Hiller, PC, to AG Schneiderman setting out the facts of the “free admission statute” and more.  [with exhibits, attached in email but not here] and
  • An August 1, 2017, letter from AG Schneiderman’s Division of Social Justice, Charity Bureau’s, reporting that that office will not “be taking any action” to ensure Ch. 476 of the Laws of 1893 is complied with.  [attached in email but not here]

I further attach [in email but not here] a copy of Kenneth Weine’s, Met Museum’s VP of External Affairs | Chief Communications Officer email of March 15, 2019, responding to FA’s February 27, 2019 email to Daniel Brodsky, Met Museum Trustee President, but as a member of the Met Museum’s Real Estate Council, wherein you will note Mr. Weine’s [the Met Museum’s] seeming “manipulative tactic” giving the impression that the Met Museum’s policy has “court” approval.   [added: see FA’s Blog entitled, “Met Museum’s Presidents’ Reply …”]

As Mr. Hiller makes clear in his letter attached [in email but not here] and on his website in an article entitled, “Why We Are Opposed to the Proposed Metropolitan Museum Settlement”, no court has “affirmed” the Met Museum’s admission policy. 

The time is ripe for all of the public-private park institutions to abide by the provisions of legislation and/or contracts that give New Yorkers – in reciprocity for their annual rent forgiveness – free admission.   

Pat Nicholson